Ramblings

February 2020


Sunday – Leominster – After a night of heavy rain everywhere is wet. Cloud still lingers over head. The rain appears to have made little impression on the water level in the River Lugg. Carrion Crows fly here and there are along the valley. A Wren darts across the river into an Ivy thicket. A Song Thrush sings Snowdropssome trees a little way down stream. A small clump of Snowdrops, the Maids of February flowers beside the water control building. It starts to rain.

Into the Millennium Park. The rain was a brief shower but the sky still looks threatening. There is a profusion of Snowdrops on the edge of the churchyard. Numerous Wild Arum leaves are unfurling along the border as well. Into the Peace Garden. The Kenwater is flowing fast and green-grey. Moles have been busy on Pinsley Mead. I check the fresh piles to see if they have thrown up anything interesting, I found a piece of decorated tile once, but all that is here is river-smoothed stones. Through the churchyard and across the Grange. A man passes carrying a bell rope, the sally, the tufted handgrip, is coloured maroon and gold.

Tuesday – Home – Yesterday I checked my pots of Broad Beans and discovered small indentations where beans had been sown – mice! A couple of traps are set and this morning both have activated and one has a dead mouse. I resow some beans but do not know how much damage the rodents have caused. I have been clearing the bottom of the garden, removing some old dumped bits and pieces and the hundreds of flowerpots that have been there since we moved here. Unfortunately, almost all are not recyclable, so off to the dump they go. I then start removing the Ivy that has grown over the wall and hangs thickly by the path that runs down the other side of the back wall. On top of the wall is a thick layer of composted material and various weeds are growing it. Including small Stinging Nettles which send me scurrying back for gloves after getting stung. There are also two small shrubs, one a gooseberry. The removed material is put in a hippo bag, a plastic woven skip. By the time I have finished the bag is too heavy for me to lift but I manage to drag it to the car and get it to the tip where it goes into the green waste. There is still more Ivy at the other end of the wall but that will have to wait.

Friday – Leominster – I wander through the town. Any plan of a long walk has been stymied by my legs which still are not functioning well. A large continental lorry pulls out of Bridge Street car park. It has Discordia down the side which seems a strange name for a company. The former Hop Pole pub has been stripped back further. At the front the ancient timber beams and wattle and daub panels of the mediaeval hall can be seen. The water level in the River Kenwater has dropped a foot or so.

Tuesday – Home – A Blackcap is singing around the Yew tree in the garden. He must have overwintered. All three hens are now laying. Sadly, more mice are caught in the greenhouse but now the second sowing of broad beans are germinating. Cabbage seedlings are also growing despite the cold. There are plenty of twigs laying around the garden, blown down by Storm Ciara. Apparently, Storm Dennis is on its way!

Gloucester – The fields south of Leominster are flooded again. Approaching Gloucester from Maisemore. The River Severn is running high and the fields on the other side of the road are deep underwater. Into Barton, an ethnically mixed area of the city. Long streets of Victorian terraces lead off of Barton Street Victorian shopping area. Anna Morris of the County Archaeological Service compiled a history of Barton.

Barton was historically part of both Barton St Michael’s and Barton St Mary’s parishes. Around 767 the royal manor of King’s Barton was recorded as an estate to supply food and administrative services to the King who used the palace in Kingsholm. Eldred the underking of the Hwicce granted land for the manor. In 1066, there were 12 plough teams on King’s Barton manor, but by 1086 there were 22 teams recorded in the Domesday Book. Between 1086 and 1327 trades in Barton Street included iron working, cloth making and leather. By the 1260s the Abbey had 10 houses in Brook Street, now Station Road, which led out of the north east corner of the town walls along the southern branch of the Twyver to Morin’s Mill – named after Roger Morin, the owner in the 13th century. In 1269 Brook Street to London Road was filled with the Carmelite Friary grounds and buildings. Settlement occurred on outer Barton Street during the 13th century as the Fokett family owned land there. In 1273 people were recorded selling outside the town walls to avoid paying tax. The Eastgate or Ailesgate was the Jewish quarter until 1275. It was the least favoured route out of the city. It ran to the two Bartons and then to the small market town of Painswick. During the later Middle Ages it became a more popular route out of Gloucester with the development of the Stroud Valleys cloth making industry. In 1370 Barton Street was a hamlet outside the borough boundary.

In 1653 a nursery of fruit trees is recorded on Barton Street. In 1643, 67 houses were destroyed in the inner city Barton Street area prior to the Civil War siege. The town clerk, John Dorney, said the city became as a garment without skirts, which we were willing to part with all, lest our enemies should sit upon them.

Market gardening grew in Barton Street. In the 1670s William Bennett was growing beans, carrots and onions, and possibly manuring his ground with night soil from the city. By 1700 most trading was happening in inns and alehouses and the open markets in the city went into decline. Some development occurred along Barton Street by 1736, when houses were advertised as being advantageous for tradesmen. In 1763 a permanent theatre was set up in Barton Street. Samuel Ryley, its manager in 1784, called it a melancholy inconvenient place, which when filled, would not hold more than £35. In 1803 31 of the 68 paupers registered in the City lived in Barton Street. Between 1821 and 1831 107 new houses were built in the hamlets of Barton St Michael and Barton St Mary outside the city boundary. By 1863 the Vauxhall gardens were covered in terraced housing and a terrace had already been built to face the gardens from Millbrook Street.

The Vauxhall Inn is now an Asian food shop. Glorious Victorian building covered in ornate brown China tiles, described in the listing as an exuberant Arts and Crafts style with Baroque details. There are numerous East European shops and Turkish or Kurdish barber shops. A theatre with a cast iron veranda looks closed. It is the former Picturedrome cinema, built in 1922-3 for E C J Palmer. It was remodelled and reopened as the Ritz in 1955, and was taken over by the Gloucester Operatic and Dramatic Society in 1986. There is coloured plaster relief still on the walls. Opposite is a closed shop on a faded painted sign on the walls above which read, The Gloucester Furnishing Company. The buildings are considerable variety, one or two are in stone but most in brick some are three stories high. Down Vauxhall Road where the terraces are almost flat roofed and have large keystone decoration above each window. The street enters Ryecroft Street. On the junction is Sparkes Bakery, established in 1850. It does not look as though it is still operating. Opposite is the mosque.

Friday – Gloucester – I return to the Barton area of Gloucester city. It is grey overhead with a blustery Churchwind although this is apparently just the lull before storm Dennis. Out onto Park End Road, the main A430. Gloucester Park is opposite. This side of the road consists of three-storey Victorian houses with streets of terraces heading off into Barton. A watery sun filters down. On the corner of the park is there a war memorial to the memory of the Gloucestershire Regiment. The cenotaph, erected in 1928, is topped by a sphinx. Into Park Road. Opposite the park is the Whitefield Memorial Presbyterian church, now an evangelical sect. It was built in 1871 by Medland and Son in the Eclectic Gothic style. Over the main doorways is a sculpted stone tympanum showing George Whitefield preaching to congregation and inscribed on the trumeau The love of Christ constrains me to lift up my heart like a trumpet. In the park with the statue of Robert Raikes (1736-1811). He founded the Sunday school movement. Across the park is a bandstand and a cafĂ© in a small timber-framed building. The houses lining Park Road are much larger and grander than those on the other side of the main road. The streets running off the Park Road are also contain higher quality houses, three stories and large but still in terraces. South into Montpellier. At the beginning of the road the buildings are modern, followed by two large buildings of Georgian design probably built in the 1950s. At the foot of the road is a pair of large three-storey semi-detached building of around 1825. One house has a coach house with a room above it. On the corner is a mid 20th century community hall. This adjoins the churchyard of Christ Church.

Christ Church was built at the suggestion of Henry Rider, Bishop of Gloucester in order to serve the expanding population of the Gloucester Spa development and the hamlet of Littleworth. It was built 1822-3 by Rickman and Hutchinson in a Neo-classical style with a monumental French Romanesque style west front. The chancel was enlarged in 1865 and internal alterations and the addition of Gaslightnorth vestry was undertaken by Waller, Son & Wood in 1883. The west front was rebuilt, and the interior remodelled 1899-1900 by H A Prothero and G Phillott. The church has a striking appearance being constructed of stuccoed brick with vermilion terracotta and grey roughcast dressings. The church was originally dedicated to Holy Trinity, and on a map of 1841 it is called Spa Church. There is the remains of an old gaslight fitting beside the side door. Sadly, I am unable to view the interior.

Opposite is Brunswick Square, large houses developed in 1822 surrounding a garden which was tennis courts at one time. In Brunswick Road is a large modern building housing Ecclesiastical, an insurance company. Brunswick Road joins Spa Road on the junction is a house in the Arts and Crafts style. Other buildings are clearly Victorian. One is the Judges Lodgings, originally known as Somerset House, designed in 1833 by Sir Robert Smirke for John Philpott. an English politician. It became the lodgings for the Assize Judges in 1864. Beaufort Buildings, built in 1818 for the Gloucester Spa Company, contain the birthplace of Cardinal Herbert Vaughan, one of the Herefordshire Vaughan’s. Opposite is the cricket ground for the City Club and a bowling green. The green is on the site of a spa. Water was extracted from wells emanating from Lower Lias clay now known as the Charmouth Mudstone. The land was known as Rigney Stile and held a sulphur well. The spa hotel was built in the early 19th century. Unfortunately the increasing popularity of Cheltenham as a fashionable health resort led to a decline here in Gloucester. The Spa Hotel became Ribston Hall School for Girls in 1867 and is now apartments. The pump room of the spa fell into disrepair and was removed in 1894 and the springs closed in 1926. The Spa Rooms were demolished in 1960.

Nelson

On along Spa Road towards the docks. Two adjoining houses have fine early 20th century conservatories built on the front. Two large modern buildings stand either side of the former RAF Association club now abandoned. Spa Road ends at Southgate Street. Near the junction is The Nelson, the ground floor being covered by dark green ceramic tiles. Llanthony Road leads through the docks to Llanthony Secunda Priory. The great warehouses have all been converted into pubs, clubs, shops and apartments. Much of the docks have now been filled in, just the Main Basin, Victoria Dock and Barge Arm remain. A single storey building houses the Fielding engine houses a working stationary engine manufactured by Fielding and Platt Ltd around 1930. A large road drawbridge crosses the entrance to the Main Dock.

Llanthony warehouse houses the National Waterways Museum. Railway tracks still emerge and cross the square towards brand new block of apartments and cafés. Albion cottages stand by the route of the Gloucester and Cheltenham tram-road which ran here from 1811 to 1861. The nine mile long tram-road carried goods to the docks. It was replaced by a railway line built by the Midland Railway. Back across Southgate Road. A short distance down the road is Albion Hall is an Evangelical Church built in 1905 for Dr Walter Hadwen, a medical practitioner who came to Gloucester at the time of the great smallpox epidemic there in 1895-96. The Dr Hadwen Trust was set up as a medical research organisation which does not use animals in its work. The Whitesmiths Arms, an 18th century house, remodelled around 1870 and now a pub, is named after the smiths who made and maintained metal parts on ships. Up a narrow lane, Albion Street. A small old warehouse now is the sea cadet premises. Victorian cottages and small villas line the street. A large dilapidated building backs onto one of the houses in Brunswick Square which also looks in poor condition. In the corner of the square is a small hall, the early 20th century building of the Spiritualist church.

North along Brunswick Road. Three storey Georgian houses line the road. St Michael’s Square is a large area occupied mainly by a car park now two of the three sides have 20th century buildings but the third has a neo-Jacobean Victorian terrace. St Michael’s Square was laid out in 1882 by Daniel Pidgeon, of Putney. The land had previously been open fields and orchards. It represents an important example of late 19th century speculative residential development. Friars Orchard is late 20th century apartment blocks. The public library was built in 1900 and remains Gloucester library. Formerly a low single story section joined the library to Gloucester museum but an odd looking second storey of concrete has been added. The founding stone of the museum was laid in April 1892. It was built by FS Waller for Margaret Hall as a memorial to her husband William Edwin Price. It was originally the Price Memorial Hall built as a lecture hall for the Gloucester Science and Art Society, 1892-3. In 1902 adapted for use as a museum and art gallery for the Corporation of the City of Gloucester. I chat to the town crier who apparently spent much of his time in London but is now the town crier for the city. He wheezes at me having had pneumonia Christmas. I guard his cycle, who holds his bell and staff while he nips into the museum. Jennings Walk named after John Jennings, 1840-1923, a master printer. The house at the corner of the walk, Caxton House, was the family home with the printing works behind. The alley emerges into an area of car parks with a single three storey Georgian bow fronted house. On the corner of Wellington Street is a modern block attached to an older block. In a modern wall behind the blocks is an old sign stating British School. A plaque setting to the wall to the memory of the old boys of Gloucester British School who fell in the Great War.

On the junction of Wellington Street and Eastgate Street is fine Georgian house, formerly called Mynd House, three storeys high with both a bow front and a bow rear. The rear is divided by modern walls. The house was built for William Fendall, barrister and banker around 1800. It was extended and altered in mid to late 19th century with shops along street frontage, completely obscuring the two lower floors. Opposite is the late 18th century Annandale House with an arch leading back into a yard, now a children’s nursery playground. The next house is hidden again behind early 20th century shop fronts, the top floor has mock timber-framing. Next is an early 19th century house, symmetrical with the central doorway and a circular window, an oculus, in the portico. Kings Barton Street is a small road leading to the King’s Theatre. The theatre is said to have been a bacon factory and a furniture repository. The later having burned down, taking the life of a warehouseman, who supposedly haunts the building. After its reconstruction it became a Salvation Army Citadel. In 1960 The Salvation Army moved out of the building and into their new premises in Eastgate Street. The Gloucester Operatic and Dramatic Society moved in and converted the building into a theatre, naming it The Olympus Theatre. They moved out in 1985 and the Churchbuilding opened as The King’s Theatre in 1987. A closed down hair salon was once a pub, The Hope Inn. It was originally built in the 17th century. Opposite are the fine red brick Gloucester Public Baths, opened in July 30th 1891 and were replaced by a new swimming pool in the 1960s. The building is now a nightclub.

The road crosses Bruton Way, the A430 and becomes Barton Street. Modern buildings stand on three corners of the junction, including a modern leisure centre on the site of the 1960s swimming pool. On the fourth is All Saints church. It was built in 1874-5 by Sir George Gilbert Scott, for the Gloucester and Bristol Church Building Association and altered in 1887. It was constructed in the Middle Pointed style with funds from subscribers and a benefaction from the family of Revd Thomas Hedley. Like most city churches it is locked.

An advertising sign is painted on the end of a terrace, M Morrison can just be made out and it may say Road Cycles underneath. Along Barton Street. The Methodist Church is a small, late 20th century building on the site of a previous Primitive Methodist church erected in 1882 as a memorial to Robert Raikes, to a design by Kerridge & Sons of Wisbech. A small side street is called Gothic Cottages. Two cottages stand at the top of the road, built around 1820 in a Gothick style. They were used as an isolation hospital during the cholera epidemic of 1832. Into All Saints Road. A large mosque, built in 1985 in red brick with a green dome and white minaret, stands at the top of the road. The area consists of a grid of terraces. In Victoria Street is the former Ryecroft Wesleyan chapel. It was opened 8th May 1871. The Gloucester Journal, in its announcement of the opening ceremony, reported the building was lit by gas, and heated by hot air from a huge cylinder in the base of the tower. A decline in worshippers followed WWII, so in 1955 the Trustees decided to try to sell the premises. In 1957, the building was leased to the Local Authorities for 14 years. In 1999, it was taken over by the Barton and Tredworth Community Trust and now called The Trust Centre. Into Goodyere Street, named after AGD Goodyere, owner of Barton house, where I am parked. Route

Easters meadow

Sunday – Leominster – Dark grey clouds fly across a lighter grey sky as Storm Dennis continues to blow. Rain lashed down through the night but has subsided now. Ten Jackdaws sit in pairs on the swaying branches of the tall Ash in the garden. The press is reporting flooding both locally and nationally, some places enduring the second serious flooding in just a week. The River Lugg has burst its banks and Easters Meadow is deep under water which has flowed through and flooded Brightwells’ compound. The water reaches the foot of the causeway carrying the A49. It is a rich red brown colour. Both of the water level indicators at the monitoring point have disappeared under water. There is no birdsong this morning as there has been on many mornings in the previous week, just twittering and churring from Great and Blue Tits.

Kenwater Bridge

There is standing water on the Millennium Park. A spaniel rushes through it excitedly. The Kenwater is rushing along inches below the level of the gardens in Mill Street. It is raining again. A Robin sings by the old priory hospital. The bells of the minster toll. The Kenwater rushes through, trees stand deep in he flow; it is not far below the level of the footpath. Fields to the north of Mill Street, out onto Ridgemoor, are underwater where the Lugg has burst its bank. Feral pigeons search the mud at the edge of the flood. The Lugg flows under Ridgemoor Bridge just a foot below the top of its keystone. Cheaton Brook is brimming, water beginning to flow into Brightwells’ car park. A Carrion Crow hangs in the wind as it gently descends onto the top branch of a tree. A pick-up drives past pulling a trailer with the shell of an early VW camper van on the back. A Shropshire Fire and Rescue service vehicle passes. Water rushes under Kenwater Bridge in Bridge Street. The circular floodwater channels at either side of the main arch are almost submerged.

Monday – Leominster – More rain fell overnight. There are many reports of flooding from Pontypridd in Wales to Tenbury Wells where the stream, Kyre Brook, has burst its banks and has reached almost the same level as the great flood of 2007. The River Wye is reported as being at its highest recorded level. LuggBridgeLocally, many roads are only passable by high-wheeled vehicles. Dark clouds are receding eastwards leaving patches of blue and little golden, drifting clouds above but there is a bank of cumulus again in the west. Water is rising out of a manhole cover outside the White Lion pub and flooding the road although not to any great depth. A train pulls out of the station heading for Manchester, so it would appear that the line is clear again.

The level of the River Lugg has risen again. There is now no bank between it and Easters Meadow. The birds must realise the storm has passed and are singing. A Wren is in full song nearby, a Blackbird and a Robin both sing further away. A South Wales bound train pulls into the station. It appears the Black Lion pub has been flooded, boxes of crisps stand on the table. There is a large pool of water in the Millennium Park, water laying along the base of the railway embankment and the pond is full again. More standing water covers part of the Peace Garden and large pools have spread across Pinsley Meads. The River Kenwater is now encroaching on gardens of the bungalows on the north side. The front doors of properties at the foot of the Priory are sandbagged. The Kenwater is an orange torrent rushing under the iron footbridge.

Wednesday – Home – A Blue Tit works its way up a small Fuchsia, pecking at the underside of each leaf. It departs and a Wren appears and starts searching the stems of the shrub. On inspection I can see tiny aphids on the plant. By early afternoon it